Fear is one of the most powerful of all human emotions. We are born with it. A little baby must learn to laugh for joy. But from the moment of birth he or she can weep for fear. This seems to suggest that the capacity to be afraid is part of our natural God-given instinct. And if that is the case, our challenge is not to get rid of it, but to learn how to deal with it.
Let us take a look at the animal kingdom. Not one of them is without fear. And all of them seem to have a healthy appreciation of its purpose. For some, such as birds and deer, it is a primary tool of survival. When a sparrow sees an approaching cat, his first reaction is to spread his wings and fly. When a deer senses danger, it flees with a speed that no human being and few other animals can match. If either of those creatures should react in any other way, it would not last long in a world of predators.
Animals are endowed with the capacity to fear for the very good reason that there are some things of which they should be afraid. The same is true of you and me. We should be afraid to ride in a car with a driver who has no fear of excessive speed. We should be afraid to fly in a plane with a pilot who has no fear of violent thunderstorms.
The person who is afraid of nothing is not so much brave as foolish. And we would be wise, whenever possible, to keep a safe distance between ourselves and that kind of person. Fear is not always a foe to be driven out. Sometimes it is a friend to be trusted. Our challenge is not so much to get rid of fear as it is to learn how to use it.
Fear is a vivid reminder of our human limitations. However wise and however strong we may think ourselves to be, sooner or later, life will get the upper hand. Unexpected storms will sweep down upon us. And we will find ourselves in the midst of a problem that we don’t know how to handle. We can neither solve it nor escape it. We have reached the limits of human strength and wisdom.
So then what? When we have faced this truth about our human limitations, where do we go from there? Do we give up and quit? Or do we just keep pulling on the oars until the ship goes under? We could do either one, but there is a wiser way. The early disciples can show us a better way. In their most desperate need, when all of their efforts had failed, they turned to Jesus for help.
That, of course, can be said in a very superficial way, as if there were something magic about our Catholic faith. Faith is not an easy and automatic solution to the problems of life. Prayer, even the most earnest prayer, will not immediately still the storms and make everything turn out right.
Yet the message of faith is this: even though at times, Jesus may seem to be sound asleep when we need Him, He is there. He has not abandoned the ship, and He will bring us safely through the storms of life. This is a truth we can count on and a truth we need to live by especially in these most turbulent and violent days. Rely on Jesus and He will be there for you always.